The Century of Self
December 6, 2009 1:18 PM   Subscribe

Ever wonder where the idea of mass marketing for corporations and governments comes from? Ever wonder why people want to do things like smoke cigarettes or fight wars that are inherently illogical? This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to control the crowd in an age of mass democracy.
Pt 1: Happiness Machines
Pt 2: The Engineering of Consent
Pt 3: There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads He Must Be Destroyed
Pt 4: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering
posted by Glibpaxman (44 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: posted previously -- jessamyn



 


If ever there was a double that was sufficiently rad to warrant existence, this would be it though Glibpaxman.
posted by mhjb at 1:28 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


People want to smoke cigarettes because they want to smoke cigarettes, and fight wars because they want to fight wars.

The idea (a la Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent") that there are puppet masters pulling the strings of the proles is arrogant and elitist.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:29 PM on December 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


The idea ... that there are puppet masters pulling the strings of the proles is arrogant and elitist.

But that doesn't necessarily make it untrue.
posted by neuron at 1:32 PM on December 6, 2009 [6 favorites]




The idea (a la Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent") that there are puppet masters pulling the strings of the proles is arrogant and elitist.

I've only watched the first thirty seconds of the documentary, but Curtis' voice adds the word "tried" into "use the Freud's theories to control the crowd". "Tried" isn't the same as "succeeded", I hope.
posted by goodglovin77 at 1:34 PM on December 6, 2009


Blaire? What does The Facts of Life have to do with this? Oh my God, they're in on it, aren't they?
posted by box at 1:34 PM on December 6, 2009


This series is about how those in power have used Freud's theories to control the crowd in an age of mass democracy.

Now I wonder why they would want you to think something like that.
posted by fleetmouse at 1:35 PM on December 6, 2009


On preview: is it a specific Freud, or just any generic Freud?
posted by goodglovin77 at 1:35 PM on December 6, 2009


If you like this, you might also like Curtis' other documentaries, all of which are, uh, available online.
posted by box at 1:39 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The idea (a la Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent") that there are puppet masters pulling the strings of the proles is arrogant and elitist.
This is a view I'm very sympathetic to and there's certainly something irritating about people who think everyone but themselves are passive dupes of the mass media; there's also something about Curtis's technique that gets up my nose a bit (the collages of stock footage) but all that said quite obviously there's something in the thesis, clever people did work hard at crafting communications that used the insights of psychoanalysis and so on, and surely none of us our entirely immune to the way the culture we live in communicates and frames messages.
posted by Abiezer at 1:47 PM on December 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


'are entirely immune'. Whoops.
posted by Abiezer at 1:48 PM on December 6, 2009


On preview: is it a specific Freud, or just any generic Freud?

Lucian Freud. They want you to smoke until you're all blurry and lumpy.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:50 PM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


The importance of the Freud clan in the early 20th century is often overlooked. It was a time of great change, and Freud's ideas formed the basis for much of what we now take for granted.

In an era of social upheaval across the world, Freud's was a way of thinking whose time had come. History chose him more than he chose history. Right guy, right time, right place.

Freud's Bastards
posted by Aetius Romulous at 1:53 PM on December 6, 2009



The idea (a la Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent") that there are puppet masters pulling the strings of the proles is arrogant and elitist.


It's been a while since I read that, but I am pretty sure he doesn't say that. More along the lines of there is what could be a called a "practical consciousness" of institutions that reinforces their own world view AND that there is a thereby a received inculcation of the acceptable limits of discourse - the manufacture of consensual frames of reference. I don't think Chomsky claims this is due to a few puppet masters but, very differently, is due to the class interests of many, many people acting in a unholy, emergent synchronization. It is thus a study of how this synchronization takes place in the very absence of a "few puppet masters"
posted by Rumple at 1:58 PM on December 6, 2009 [12 favorites]


Adam Curtis' blog is fantastic. The only problem is that some of the video is behind the BBC iplayer ring-fence so you can't access the video outside of the UK. That said, I would still urge people to have a look at it.

Yeah, it's a double but it's a goodie.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 2:02 PM on December 6, 2009


Ah a double? Damn! Well it is still good. Watched it all last night and can't get it out of my mind. Look forward to all your comments.
posted by Glibpaxman at 2:07 PM on December 6, 2009


On preview: is it a specific Freud, or just any generic Freud?

Don't listen to Sidhedevil, it's Clement Freud. They want you to buy dog food.
posted by Sova at 2:08 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


is it a specific Freud, or just any generic Freud?

Apparently the series involves several members of the extended Freud family in varying contexts. So, not a generic Freud, but not a singular, specific Freud, either.

Curtis seems to be making a whole series of documentaries which pull back the curtain to expose the Oz that he sees. How legitimate his claims may be, I'm not expert enough in any of the subjects to judge accurately. I do think that the knee-jerk reaction of "nobody is manipulating the public's desires and sentiments" which were implied early in this thread are probably false. But I seriously doubt it's some star chamber cabal planning all this in some coordinated manner.

Thanks for posting this. I'd forgotten about it, even though I know I watched it years ago. I'll be looking at the other Curtis docs, too. I think it's important to be aware of the potential for manipulation, even if it may not be carried out to the extent or with the depth of efficacy that Curtis may imply.

Anyone denying some power of media and advertising within modern Western culture, however, is blind to a basic fact of life.

Oh, and.. for those who would rather watch offline, the Internet Archive seems to have many Curtis documentaries available for your download pleasure.
posted by hippybear at 2:10 PM on December 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


Where's Marshall Mc Luhan when you need him, eh?
posted by fcummins at 2:11 PM on December 6, 2009


"...there's certainly something irritating about people who think everyone but themselves are passive dupes of the mass media..."

I don't smoke, I'm anti-war, and I find Chomsky irritating. Where does that leave me?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 2:12 PM on December 6, 2009


The idea (a la Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent") that there are puppet masters pulling the strings of the proles is arrogant and elitist.

Can I suggest you watch the movie, or (re?)read Chomsky? Because I'd be willing to bet both he and Curtis would agree with you.
posted by regicide is good for you at 2:14 PM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


Look at how many people showed up for the tea parties! How many will line up and do whatever Glenn Beck tells them? We are definitely in the age of manufactured opinions.
posted by JHarris at 2:14 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


I like Adam Curtis' films, even as I suspect they might be trading in sexy, intellectually seductive conspiracy-mongering. I'm curious to watch his new one (It Felt Like a Kiss) because it seems like it might lay off the didacticism a little and just deal in the pure gonzo montage.
posted by anazgnos at 2:15 PM on December 6, 2009


Greedy people behave in similar ways. One might be tempted to think they were in cahoots, noticing that their interests seem to align and overlap. But whether they are or not is irrelevant.

Why wouldn't you, if you were a captain of industy, hire a propagandist like Bernays to manipulate people? How are you going to sell all those identical widgets to people who each think they're a special snowflake? How do you entrench the notion that it's possible to express individuality buy buying something that is one of a (m|b)illion nearly identical instances?

People who snap to judgement on these documentaries (worthy of skepticism as they are) are usually the same ones that claim marketing doesn't work on them.
posted by klanawa at 2:15 PM on December 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


Maybe it's because I'm watching football while reading this thread, but all of a sudden I want a Freud F-100 with a man step and traction control.
posted by carsonb at 2:16 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


The idea (a la Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent") that there are puppet masters pulling the strings of the proles is arrogant and elitist.

I'm not familiar with MC, but I do know the easiest way to control people is to keep them in fear and ignorance. Maybe that's just a coincidental of our far-right and right-wing party system, though.
posted by DU at 2:22 PM on December 6, 2009


How are you going to sell all those identical widgets to people who each think they're a special snowflake? How do you entrench the notion that it's possible to express individuality buy buying something that is one of a (m|b)illion nearly identical instances?

One time while driving, I misread a billboard...I don't remember what it actually said, but at first glance I thought it said "ALL YOU GUYS [should buy Coke, or something]", and it was a really startling because I realised in an instant that I'd never seen mass advertising address itself to a "group" like that, and seeing something that looked like it was doing that was really unsettling. Of course, it wasn't actually doing that. It had never occurred to me that there was something insidious to the way ads always address each individual seperately.
posted by anazgnos at 2:26 PM on December 6, 2009 [5 favorites]


What's all this about light-speed briefs?
posted by The Whelk at 2:28 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


often discussion goes to what FOLLOWERS of particular academics speak about... (and what someone takes out of a theory, rather than what is actually described, examined, and stated by that theory (the ingredients put into the recipe to a particular academics worldview) and taken out of the context of years of study, the academics ideas can spiral outwards into territory that was not intended or supported by the initial investigations. It's way easier to take decades of research, content analysis, and documentation, and Extrapolate outwards to 'teh evil own us.'.. than it would be to spend the years learning how to do good research, how to analyse, report, and document content and data.

Far as I can tell (but how far CAN one tell exactly? And is telling a little too ironically ME ME ME for this post?), Chomsky's refering to a 'group think' like syndrome, or a 'Media Think'... not so much the whole cabal thing... but rather, how a little-bit-a-bias' can go a long way
or; just because ______ supports someone, does not mean that someone supports ______.
on preview, I like what HippyBear said, and very much appreciate that link.
posted by infinite intimation at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2009


On preview: is it a specific Freud, or just any generic Freud?

Clement Freud... that's why I only eat Chunky Meat; isn't that right, Henry?
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:37 PM on December 6, 2009


And for those who might find that reference a little obscure... probably not help much, though.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:39 PM on December 6, 2009


Following a derail for a bit...

> The idea (a la Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent") that there are puppet masters pulling the strings of the proles is arrogant and elitist.

The more I learn about large organizations and institutional behaviour, the more I see the truth of Hanlon's Razor "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."
But do I think there are organizations, corporations, ...classes out there actively trying to manipulate the great unwashed for their own ends? Oh fuck yes.

I'll admit my error when I can watch the war-crimes trials of the Bush administration, and there's been meaningful financial reform.
posted by Artful Codger at 2:58 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I started with video three, and it seems to argue in the beginning that the foo-foo, love-child, drug-experimenting hippie of America in the 60s was an intentional shift in perspective by the left in reaction to their failure to enact change through other means, such as violence and political action. In other words, that the left tried to fight the world on its own terms, came up short, and then attempted to redefine the conflict. That was a really fascinating thesis to me because I am constantly upset at the left for failing to define the terms of the debates they engage in.

Is this an accepted interpretation of what happened? Are there books that develop the idea further?
posted by Nonce at 2:59 PM on December 6, 2009


Adam Curtis: "The Rise and Fall of the Television Journalist as Hero"
posted by meehawl at 3:05 PM on December 6, 2009




Bob Dylan went electric and stopped singing about peace and equality. That was the end of "us" and the beginning of "me." Chomsky still hasn't forgiven him for it.

Bummer, man.
posted by klanawa at 3:05 PM on December 6, 2009


The more I learn about large organizations and institutional behaviour, the more I see the truth of Hanlon's Razor "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."

Just because it's stupid doesn't mean it isn't a conspiracy ...
posted by philip-random at 3:18 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ever wonder where the idea of corporations and governments are out to get you comes from?

Anyone who's not paranoid is an asshsole.
(William Burroughs)
posted by philip-random at 3:20 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sufficiently advanced stupidity is indiatibguishable from malice.
posted by empath at 3:24 PM on December 6, 2009 [8 favorites]


The idea (a la Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent") that there are puppet masters pulling the strings of the proles is arrogant and elitist.

Honestly, youre dismissing everything from peer pressure to advertising as being ineffective? True arrogance is the self-styled contrarian who disbelieves everything he hears. The contrarian who rails against the "elites" is just another elitist.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:26 PM on December 6, 2009 [3 favorites]


The idea (a la Chomsky's "Manufacturing Consent") that there are puppet masters pulling the strings of the proles is arrogant and elitist.

What Rumple said already. This is not what Chomsky claims at all, and I'd assume if you'd read the book you'd know that.
posted by odinsdream at 3:26 PM on December 6, 2009


Stupid iPhone keyboard :(
posted by empath at 3:33 PM on December 6, 2009


Oh, it's indiatibsputiably a word.
posted by Abiezer at 3:36 PM on December 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


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